Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Phở gà, or chicken phở, may be the lesser known sibling of phở bò but it is equally delicious. The chicken meat can come from the thighs, legs or breast. If you're a fan of organ meats, try gizzards and liver. And, if you're a real gourmand, phở gà with premature chicken eggs should be a real treat.
- 6 chicken thighs skin on
- 1 kilo chicken necks and backs
- 1/2 head garlic unpeeled
- 2 shallots unpeeled
- 1 half-inch knob ginger unpeeled
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 cloves
- 1 star anise or 1 small cinnamon stick, or use both
- 8 peppercorns
- rice noodles prepared according to package directions
- blanched vegetables whatever you like; carrots and bok choy are great
- fresh Thai basil
- fried shallots to garnish (optional)
- lime wedges to serve
- Place the chicken in a large pot. Cover with water, bring to the boil and leave to boil for about five minutes.
- While waiting for the water to boil, throw the garlic, shallots and ginger on an open flame. I used the gas stove. Simple.
- Using kitchen tongs, turn everything occasionally until the skins are blackened.
- While the garlic, shallots and ginger are charring, dry toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, star anise, cloves and peppercorns in an oil-free pan for a couple of minutes until they start releasing their aroma (when the seeds start popping, they’re ready). Remove from the heat.
- Remove the blackened shallots, ginger and garlic to a plate and, using a clean kitchen towel, gently wipe off and discard the blackened skins. DO NOT RINSE. If a few charred spots remain, let them be.
- Scoop out the chicken and throw out the water.
- Rinse the chicken to remove all impurities.
- Place the chicken in a clean pot, cover with water, add the charred and toasted spices, sprinkle in salt and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Strain the broth into a clean pan and set on the stove over low heat. Taste. Add more salt, if needed/ You want it to continue simmering until the moment you pour it into the bowl.
- Using two forks, break the meat from the chicken thighs into fairly large chunks.
- Assemble your pho. Place noodles in six bowls, top with chicken meat, blanched vegetables, mint, Thai basil and cilantro. Fill the pot with the simmering broth. Optionally, sprinkle in some fried shallots.
- Serve at once with lime wedges on the side.
The vegetable combination is endless although the Thai basil, mint and cilantro trio is more ubiquitous than others. But I have had phở with vegetables consisting of nothing but sliced scallions and it was delectable. See, it’s really about the broth. In making pho broth, it isn’t enough that you have bones and spices to simmer. You have to char the some of those spices and toast the rest. Yes, char as in throwing them directly on the fire and leaving them there until the skins blacken. You can’t be stingy with the bones either because a good broth has highly concentrated flavors. A bland broth, no matter how much salt and aromatics you add to it, will still taste flat. For best results, use free range chicken which makes a richer broth. This is un updated version of a recipe originally published on June 26, 2013.
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